The Wizard of Wartville

Two years ago the 2nd grade class at Lafayette Elementary in West Seattle , USA decided that they wanted to do something about littering. This turned into a two-part project. The first part was a neighborhood litter pick-up. The kids thoroughly enjoyed being outside, running down any piece of trash they could find. Their enthusiasm was elevated to near frenzy when one boy, Ceferino, found a $5 bill in the bushes. Word spread quickly among the teams that there was “GOLD “ to be found out there.

As we walked along the sidewalks, business owners of several small shops came out to ask what we were doing. The kids shouted that they were picking up litter. Smiles replaced the concerned looks on the owners’ faces and they showered the kids with Thank you's.

Soon we approached the neighboring high school, which the class already had determined to be the home of the worst littering of all. This turned out to true. The kids picked up a lot of litter, especially from the bushes around the school.

In fact, the littering at the high school was so bad that it sparked the second part of the kids’ project—writing and performing a play about litter, based on the book, “The Wizard of Wartsville.” The gist of the plot is that Mother Nature gives the Wizard a special power to make litter stick to people who throw it, just by pointing his finger at them.

Eight children wrote the script. The writing went well, with much input—sometimes all at once! Susan, the kids’ teacher, helped them finish the job. The play had parts for just about everybody in the class, including a narrator, the Wizard, the Sheriff, Dr. Splint, a lady who litters and gets a bag of garbage stuck to her bottom, and the gourmet motorcycle club and senior citizens football team, both of whom have picnics and make big messes. Any kids who didn’t get parts helped make the props and stage-managed the rehearsals and the performance.

The kid performed the play twice, once for their own school and parents, and again for the high school. About fifty high schoolers came over to the elementary school cafeteria, which doubles as the theatre. They all sat on the floor and watched the play—which ends with the whole cast yelling, "You better watch out what you throw down on the ground “‘cuz it might come back and stick to you!”

The performance was followed by a question and answer session. Several high-schoolers asked why the kids choose littering as the subject for their play and what they learned from their experience. The 2nd graders answered unabashedly that they got the idea for the play after they found so much garbage outside the high school. What they learned was that teenagers were the worst litterers!

There was laughter from teachers, adults and 2nd graders— and an embarrassed silence from the teenagers. The project had made its point—that awareness is 90% of the solution.